A TALE OF TWO MACARONS

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This post is long overdue. The Cinnamon Macarons were made 11 months ago with our friend Cindy, who traveled from Oklahoma to spend a weekend with us. It was our second adventure to perfect these finicky babies, and Cindy, being way more organized than yours truly, brought a bunch of notes about what should have been improved from our previous attempt.  Of course, we had so much fun cooking together that we barely paid attention to the notes, and managed to overlook a couple of tips given by Kathryn Gordon in her beautiful book Le Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home.

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CINNAMON MACARONS WITH CRUNCHY CACAO NIB FILLING

OVERVIEW OF THE RECIPE

Equal amounts of almond flour and confectioner’s sugar plus a pinch of salt are mixed with a little cinnamon in the food processor and pulsed a few times. Then some granulated sugar and powdered egg whites are added, pulsed a few more times. The whole mixture is sifted.

A French meringue is prepared with 4 egg whites and a bit of cream of tartar, added to the sifted ingredients, and piped into rounds.

Our filling of choice was a Crunchy Chocolate Ganache made with semi-sweet chocolate, light corn syrup, heavy cream, a bit of butter and – for the final pizzaz: roasted cocoa nibs.

(full recipe can be found in Les Petits Macarons)

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Comments:
The only problem we had in the making of this recipe was that  in some shells the feet “slipped out.”  It was hard to find a precise reason for that boo-boo, so we are left with the suspicion that macarons do not appreciate being watched during baking. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  But, you want to know something funny? A little sharp knife worked wonders to trim the runaway feet, and the resulting crumbs go UNBELIEVABLY well over some ice cream. Life gives you lemons? Make lemonade! Macarons give you extra feet? Sweet crumbs it is!  Full-disclosure: Cindy and I nicknamed them  “toe nail clippings”, much to our husbands chagrin. Oh, well… We could not resist. They were mighty tasty, though.
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Cindy, sorry it took me so long to compose this post!  That also means that you are overdue for a visit for take FOUR on macarons… Take four, you ask? Well, I made them again a few months ago, this time all by myself, which is not nearly as much fun!

Cinnamon Macarons, from Bewitching Kitchen


MACARONS, TAKE THREE


Back in February I felt the urge to make macarons again. You know, Valentine’s Day, romance in the air, but winter still lingering around. I wanted a batch of super bright and sexy macarons. Is there anything sexier than raspberries? Obviously not.  I opened all my macaron cookbooks (thanks to our friend Gary I own several), searched the net, but when I stumbled upon this recipe, I could not stop thinking about it.  Tricia shaped her macarons as little hearts!  Of course, knowing my limitations I did not even try to go there. They would end up more like rodent livers or something.  But maybe next time…

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RASPBERRY MACARONS

(adapted from Saving Room for Dessert)

for the shells:
150 grams almond meal, sift twice
150 grams confectioners’ sugar, sifted
55 grams egg whites, aged overnight

for the meringue:
150 grams granulated sugar
37.5 grams water
55 grams egg whites, aged overnight
gel food color, red

for the filling:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ounce cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup fresh raspberries, pureed and strained
a few drops of vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (more or less as needed for desired consistency)

Prepare 2 sheets of parchment paper and two baking sheets. To ensure consistent sized cookies, trace a cookie cutter on the parchment paper as a template then turn it over before piping. Prepare a pasty bag fitted with a large round tip. Set aside.
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Place the almond meal and the confectioner’s sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times. In a large mixing bowl sift together the almond meal and confectioners’ sugar. Make a well in the center and add 55 grams of egg whites. Fold the mixture with a spatula until it becomes a thick, paste-like batter.
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Place the remaining 55 grams of egg whites in the large mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Set aside. In a small saucepan combine the granulated sugar and water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan and heat to 225 degrees. Once the syrup reaches 225 degrees, turn on the stand mixer and beat the egg whites on high. Continue to beat the whites while cooking the syrup until it reaches 239 degrees. You want the meringue to be at soft peak stage so if it reaches that stage before the syrup reaches 239 degrees, turn the mixer down to low. When the syrup hits 239 degrees remove it from the heat and slowly pour it into the egg whites while the mixer is running. Try to stream the syrup directly into the whites close to the side of the bowl so it won’t cool too quickly. Whip on high for a minute then reduce the speed to low and continue beating until the bowl has cooled slightly and glossy stiff peaks have formed.
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Add about half the meringue to the batter, gently folding until combined and smooth. Gradually add the remaining meringue, and food color if using, and fold until the batter is smooth. To test consistency, pick up the spatula and if the batter ribbons back into the bowl, it is ready. It should be like lava blending back into itself after about a minute.
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Heat oven to 300 degrees. Fill pastry bags with the macaron batter. Pipe the batter into rounds. Once the first sheet is filled, rap the pan on the counter a few times to rupture any air bubbles trapped in the cookie. Rotate the pan and rap again. Set the baking sheet aside to allow a shell to form. This will take about 20-30 sitting out at room temperature. Pipe another sheet of cookies and repeat.
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Bake for about 18 – 20 minutes for until you can lift the cookie off the parchment coming away clean. Remove the entire sheet of parchment paper with cookies intact to a wire rack to cool. Once completely cool, remove the macarons from the parchment and fill as desired.
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To prepare the buttercream, blend the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the vanilla, raspberry puree, and about 2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar. Blend until smooth. Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar until you reach the desired consistency for the filling. It does not have to be as thick as cake icing as it will harden once refrigerated. Pipe mounds of buttercream on once cookie, top with a matching macaron and twist a little to spread the filling. Refrigerate macarons for 24-48 hours before serving for the best flavor. Allow them to rest at room temperature about an hour before serving.
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Makes 30 filled macarons, or about 60 individual shells.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: Definitely some major improvement this time, thanks to a new sifter with a slightly bigger mesh size. Sifting the almond flour/sugar mixture was a breeze, and I decided to simply discard the small mount of coarse bits left in the sieve. Every recipe insists on a fine mesh, but I suspect you don’t need to go too fine, unless you enjoy spending 20 minutes to sift 1 cup of stuff… Nope, not happening again. I am pretty happy with this arrangement. This is a OXO brand sieve, found in our grocery store for very cheap.  I love it!

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The meringue worked very well, although I was in full hyperventilation mode trying to negotiate the temperature of the simple syrup and the beating of the egg whites all by myself. A second pair of friendly hands would be more than welcome…  The final batter had that flowing lava consistency, which always gives me a smile, after all, how many people have actually seen lava flowing? Hopefully not that many, not the type of stuff I’d like to face.  At any rate, I guess now it’s a matter of working on technique, piping circles more consistent in diameter, doing a slightly better job in the “macaronage step.”  I was afraid to deflate the batter too much and ended up with some spots where the flour mixture did not fully incorporate.  When that happened, the shells cracked during baking.  I was lucky that it happened to just a few. Being the magnanimous person I am, I quickly swallowed them before Phil even had a chance to see them. What can I say? I give, and give, and give.

Raspberry MacaronsAren’t we adorable?

 

Raspberry Macarons, from Bewitching Kitchen

I hope you enjoyed my little Tale of Two Macarons… I now realize how much I love making them, and hope to try a slightly different take on the subject by baking up a batch of…are you ready for it? Savory Macarons! Kathryn’s book has many variations.  Don’t you think Saffron Macarons with Tomato Confit Filling sounds amazing? I might just have to go for it…

ONE YEAR AGO: Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

TWO YEARS AGO: Chicken in Green Pipian Sauce, Sous-vide Style

THREE YEARS AGO: Classic Shrimp Gobernador Tacos

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Walk Towards the Sunset

FIVE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen

SIX YEARS AGO:  Heavenly Home-made Fromage Blanc

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  A Perfect Sunday Dinner

PERFECT SOY-GRILLED STEAK

I am not too fond of superlatives when it comes to cooking, as what I might consider perfect won’t necessarily hit the jackpot for everyone else. But that’s the title of the recipe by Mark Bittman that happened to be one of the most popular according to a recent round-up by New York Times. If you don’t subscribe to their cooking newsletter, consider doing so. Oddly enough, Phil was the one who drew my attention to it. I joked that we have hundreds of cookbooks in the house, but he never opens a single one to look for inspiration. However, he gets mesmerized by the New York Times collections, and if I resist reading the page, he will drag me in front of his computer to point out all the ones “we should make soon.”  We. You know, that pronoun that means more than one person doing something together. So, yes, that’s how I ended up making this recipe.  I opted for the sous-vide route because it makes the best flatiron steak in the known universe. How about that for disliking superlatives?

Soy Grilled Steak

 

PERFECT SOY-GRILLED STEAK
(adapted from Mark Bittman)

¼ cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon peeled and minced ginger
½ teaspoon peeled and minced garlic (I omitted)
1 tablespoon agave nectar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 flatiron steak
salt to taste

Mix together the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Place the steak in a plastic bag or tight container and add the sauce. Marinate while you heat the grill, or if possible, longer. Season lightly with salt right before grilling.

For rare meat, grill about 3 minutes a side for steaks less than an inch thick. For larger or more done steak, increase the time slightly.

Sous-vide preparation: after marinating the steak, remove it from the soy-based sauce and place in a vacuum bag. Seal it and place it in a water-bath set to 134 F for three hours. Remove from the bag, discard any accumulated liquid and sear on a very hot grill for a minute each side.

Let it rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You definitely don’t need a sous-vide gadget to make this steak. But I tell you, if you have one, it is so worth putting it to use here!  I make the marinade early in the morning, add the steak into a bag with it. When we are home for lunch I discard the marinade, vacuum-seal the meat and place it in the water-bath until dinner.  Timing is so flexible that I don’t even worry about being late.  A quick side dish of sautéed veggies and a simple salad, maybe some bread, that’s all we need to be happy campers.  For this particular dinner, we paired the flatiron steak in all it’s medium-rare glory with cauliflower gratin (leftover from the evening before) and sliced heirloom tomatoes with avocados and almonds. Pure gastronomical joy, I tell you…

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Now, going back to that collection of 10 most-popular NYT recipes. Several gems in there. We are both very interested in the Skewered Chicken with Peanut Sauce,  Phil says he wants to make the Pork Chops with Brandied Cherries, I will definitely be making the Flattened Chicken Thighs with Roasted Lemon Slices (wow!)… As far as sweets, the Almond Cake makes me dream… and Julia Child’s Berry Flan goes to the top of my beloved’s list. In summary, out of 10 recipes 6 are definite keepers. Not too shabby at all…

Perfect Soy-Grilled Steak

ONE YEAR AGO: The Devil’s Bread

TWO YEARS AGO: Heart of Palm Salad Skewers

THREE YEARS AGO: Potluck Frittata and Lavoisier

FOUR YEARS AGO: Home-made Corn Tortillas

FIVE YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Peanut Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: Brigadeiros: A Brazilian Party!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Lemony Asparagus

FOCACCIA WITH GRAPES, ROQUEFORT AND TRUFFLED HONEY

Truffled honey. Can I get a group OMG going? I hope so… that stuff could probably be under a list of controlled substances…  I better use mine up before it does makes into the list.  But back to the focaccia. I wanted to bake something for a departmental get-together, scheduled for a Thursday evening. Weather forecast for that week was high 90’s, low 100’s, so turning the oven at 450F seemed wrong on many levels. But the weekend before we got a little break with some rain and cooler temps, so I decided to get the baking out of the way as early as possible on Saturday, then freeze my production until showtime.  I also wanted something a little different from the same old same old, and a grape focaccia came to mind. In Tuscany, it is called  a Schiacciata con l’Uva, a name that beats grape focaccia into submission. I found a recipe at epicurious, but ended up winging it myself. Rebel is my middle name.

Grape Focaccia

FOCACCIA WITH GRAPES, ROQUEFORT & TRUFFLED HONEY
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

3/4 cup very warm water
1/8 cup milk, full-fat
1  teaspoons sugar
1 + 1/2  teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil for dough plus more to spread
seedless black grapes
Roquefort cheese, crumbled
dried thyme to taste (or fresh)
Maldon salt flakes
truffled honey (or regular honey)

In the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer stir the warm water, milk, sugar, and yeast.  Add the flour, salt and  Add the flour, salt olive oil (2 tablespoons) to the bowl, then knead with the dough hook for about 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, and knead it by hand briefly, a minute or so longer.

Place the dough inside an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 90 minutes. It will more than double, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

Brush a half-sheet baking pan with olive oil, transfer the risen dough into it, and allow it to rest for a few minutes to relax the gluten. Add olive oil on top (about 3 tablespoons)  and spread the dough to cover the baking sheet.  Cover it again and let it sit for 45 minutes at room temperature.  While the focaccia is in its second rise, turn the oven to 450F.

Top the dough with grapes sliced in half, the crumbled Roquefort cheese, thyme, add coarse salt all over, then drizzle the surface with a little truffled honey.  Do not add too much, as the flavor is very potent.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. If the top is getting too dark, reduce the temperature to 425 F after 10 minutes.

Cool it on a rack before slicing in squares.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: Before anyone criticizes me for taking liberties with the thickness of the schiacciata, let me state upfront that I like my focaccia to be thick and pillowy. If you want to stick to tradition, stretch the dough to the extension of a full baking sheet instead of half.  It will then be thinner and crispy. The combination of grapes with blue cheese is a classic, but when truffled honey was added to it, I’d say I hit that one out of the park. And I don’t even like baseball!  One word of caution, the stuff is potent. When you open the bottle, the intensity of the truffle smell will surprise you. Use it sparingly or it will overpower every other flavor in the focaccia. Of course, if you don’t have truffled honey, use a regular honey instead.  Maybe you own a bottle of truffle oil? In that case, put a small amount of it to use, maybe mix a few drops with regular honey… I suppose that could work well too.

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Grab a piece or four… and be happy!

Grape Focaccia, from Bewitching Kitchen

ONE YEAR AGO: Moroccan Carrot Dip over Cucumber Slices

TWO YEARS AGO: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

THREE YEARS AGO: Cilantro-Jalapeno “Hummus”

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Moving Odyssey

SEVEN YEARS AGO:
 
Shrimp Moqueca

 

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ZUCCHINI NOODLES WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO PESTO

One of the best acquisitions for our kitchen was the spiralizer. It is the type of gadget that requires a little bit of getting used to. When I first got it, the idea of dragging it out of the cabinet, setting it on the countertop, and getting my technique right so that the strands would be uniformly gorgeous… seemed a bit much. But trust me, the more you use it, the better you’ll be and the more you’ll fall in love with it. Now I don’t even blink, grab it, and try it on all sorts of veggies, broccoli stalks being the most recent. Stay tuned for that one… Should I call them “broodles?” Yeah, broodles. Mind. Blown. But anyway, zucchini is probably the number one veggie that everyone uses. They have the perfect shape and give super long and beautiful strands. Plus, they marry well with so many sauces: Oriental style like soy with peanuts plus a little fish sauce to hip-it-up, tomato based sauces, cashew cream, real cream, pesto, browned butter… Today I am sharing a recipe from a favorite food blog of mine. I’ve cooked many dishes from  The Iron You. Mike raved about the combination of sun-dried tomato pesto and zoodles. He is one smart cookie. It is superb! You must try it.

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ZUCCHINI NOODLES WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATO PESTO
(adapted from The Iron You)

for the sun-dried tomato pesto:
½ cup  oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
⅓ cup roasted almonds
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
small bunch of fresh basil leaves
salt to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil

for the noodles:
6 medium-large zucchini

In a food processor (or blender) add roasted almonds and basil and pulse until roughly chopped. Add sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and Pecorino Romano cheese and process until a uniform paste has formed. Season with a little salt. With the food processor (or blender) running, stream in the olive oil and continue blending until the olive oil is emulsified into the pesto and the sauce looks uniform. Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Using a spiralizer create zucchini noodles using your favorite blade, thin or thick, whatever you prefer.

Boil the zoodles in salted boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and mix with the pesto sauce while still very hot.  Sprinkle with additional Parmigiano cheese before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:
Talk about a tasty pesto!  The texture of mine was not as smooth as the one Mike made, at least from the photos, but I don’t think that matters that much. If you prefer a smoother texture, process further and maybe add a little more olive oil.  I used roasted unsalted almonds, so I adjusted the seasoning with salt. Mike used salted almonds and he also used garlic, which I am sure most of my readers will enjoy too.  I fully agree that it was a match made in heaven with the zoodles.  We enjoyed it as a side dish with grilled pork tenderloin, but of course you could make it into a fully vegetarian meal if you add a few more goodies on the plate, like roasted asparagus, a big salad, or a crostini with a smear of goat cheese run under the broiler. Yeah, that sounds about right!

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Dinner is served!

 

Zoodles with Sundried Tomato Pesto

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Caprese Salad with Toasted Walnuts

TWO YEARS AGO: Oh, my God! I think I saw something!

THREE YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Hoisin-Grilled Chicken and Soba Noodles

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Manhattan Project

FIVE YEARS AGO: Carrot “Nib” Orzo

SIX YEARS AGO:  A Sticky Situation

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  The Garden

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: FALAFEL & A BONUS RECIPE

The Secret Recipe Club is an event that pairs two food bloggers in secret. Once we get our “assignment”, we have about 3 weeks to browse through the site, choose a recipe from it, cook and blog about it at midnight of Reveal Monday. I’ve been a member for a long time, but I still remember exactly how it felt when I joined. Those “newbie” feelings, never quite sure if your write-up, photos, chosen recipe were good enough. I got to know amazing food blogs through the SRC, and that is a bonus like no other. Long before I joined the club, I was a faithful follower of a very unique blog, called Chef in Disguise. At some point in the not too distant past, Sawsan, the hostess of that site, joined The Secret Recipe Club, and when I learned about that, my heart missed a beat, out of pure thrill. And then it missed another beat, from disappointment. Disappointment because she was not in my group. At that time there were four different groups. I was part of Group D, she was placed in Group A. Bummer. But it so happens that major changes took place, instead of four separate groups we now have three, bloggers moved around, and voilà: I found myself sitting in Group A.  But, what’s even better, today I have the greatest honor and pleasure of cooking from her site.  Those are incredibly big shoes to fill, Sawsan is an outstanding cook, photographer, and writer. But having interacted with her over many years through emails and comments I also know she is an amazing human being. Kind, generous, loving, devoted to her family, friends, profession, and culture. Through her blog, I learned so much more than cooking. Just to offer you a very small but representative example: in this post she explains Ramadan and does so in a beautiful, profound and touching way.  But that’s just one example. Sawsan’s mission is to open her kitchen and home to people all over the world. You’ll find stories of her family as she grew up, stories of her kids adventures in school or how they are all dealing with moving from Jordan to UAE.  You will also find recipes ranging from straightforward to incredibly sophisticated. There is simply nothing she won’t try and then excel at. You don’t believe me? Take a look at this cake she made for her son. Or this one for her daughter. And when she does this type of challenging projects, she makes sure that anyone can follow her steps, by writing very detailed tutorials.  These “how to” posts are amazing sources of information, a bit like having a teacher holding your hand.

As usual, I like to make a list of the recipes that I considered for this Reveal Day. From Chef in Disguise, my list was a mile long, but I will take a minimalist approach: Pão de Queijo (because I was thrilled to see her making a typical Brazilian concoction),  Date Bread Rings, Cheese and Anise Flat Bread,  Mille-feuille for home-made Napoleon, Braided Date Bread (almost made this one…), Lavender Chicken, Pavlova (always wanted to give this one a try), Kabsa (irresistible rice and meat concoction from the Arabian gulf).  But I also want to offer you four examples of tutorials that are a must-read: How to make Labneh Cheese How to make Feta Cheese…  How to make mozzarella and armenian string cheese… and another one very dear to my heart: Sourdough starter 101: how to create your sourdough starter from scratch.

So, what did I pick? For starters, Falafel. Not an easy choice, because a couple of years ago I had an epic disaster in the kitchen attempting to make them. Our dear friend Cindy had traveled all the way from Oklahoma to visit us and one of our goals was to make falafel together. Things seemed to be going well, but when we got to the part of frying them, they disintegrated in the oil, every single one of them!  It was a royal mess, we had to resort to a plan B for our dinner. I confess that when I have this type of problem with a recipe, I usually avoid attempting it again for a while (in Sally’s speak: for a while = forever).  But Sawsan’s post was my chance to do it right.  I was quite nervous about it, but here I am to report back: HUGE SUCCESS!  A personal culinary demon has been exorcised for good!

(Just when I finished editing and scheduling this post, Sawsan published a new article.
I won’t say a word about it. Because once again, she’s said it all).

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FALAFEL
(slightly adapted from Sawsan’s Chef in Disguise)

This recipe makes 35 falafel patties

500 g soaked chickpeas (measured after soaking)
125 g soaked peeled fava beans (measured after soaking)
½ cup parsley leaves (remove stems)
½ cup cilantro leaves (remove stems)
1 medium shallot
¾ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoons ground cumin
¾ teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon all spice
½ teaspoon black pepper

to add 10 minutes before cooking
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda

for the tahini sauce:
2 Tablespoons of yogurt
1 tablespoon Tahini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
a dash of salt

Prepare the Falafel Mix: Soak the fava beans and the chickpeas in water in separate containers overnight. The following day drain the fava beans and the chickpeas, rinse them with fresh water. You should weigh them after soaking, and place the required amount in the bowl of a food processor. Process the grains together until smooth, remove from the processor and add the shallot, parsley, cilantro, salt, peppers, and spices to the empty processor. Process until a paste forms, add the grains back and process everything together until very smooth.  Scrape the sides of the bowl a couple of times so that  you’ll end up without large chunks of grains.  You can freeze the mixture at this point or place it in the fridge for a few days.

Ten minutes before frying, sprinkle baking soda and baking powder on the falafel mix, knead and let rest.

When ready heat 1 inch deep of cooking oil in the frying pan on medium heat. Scoop the falafel by using a specialized Falafel scoop, an ice cream scoop, or by using 2 spoons whereby you scoop the falafel paste in one, and press the other spoon against it to compact it into an oval shape. You can also use your hands to roll the falafel into balls. Drop the falafel gently into the frying pan. no more than 4-5 because if you add too many the oil will cool down and the falafel will fall apart Fry for a few minutes until the falafel turns brownish, flipping it once to brown both sides.  Take the falafel out and place it on a paper towel to get rid of excess oil.

Make the sauce: mix the Tahini sauce ingredients in a small bowl until you get the right texture, you can add a bit more water or lemon juice if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve as a dip or spoon some over the falafel on your plate.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe click here 

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Comments: To make this wonderful recipe, you’ll need two special items. First dried, peeled fava beans (although you could use all garbanzo beans if you cannot find fava). I will add a little note here. Sawsan once offered to send me a bag of dried favas straight from Jordan, so that I could have the best possible product to make falafel from scratch!  Can you imagine? I told you she is very kind… So, for this recipe I searched for the very best product I could find through amazon.com as far as reviews from customers go.  The second item, which is not mandatory, is a falafel maker. You can see what it looks like in the photo below  I advise you to buy a large one, because some available are way too small. The one I got is this model. It is described as extra-large. Trust me, you don’t want anything smaller. Of course, you can make falafel shaped with spoons or your hands, but I wanted to make sure I did a good job. Remember, it’s Sawsan’s blog I am talking about…

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I made the falafel mixture two days before actually frying them.  Kept the bowl in the fridge, then kneaded the baking powder and baking soda right before cooking them, as instructed by Sawsan. To my amazement, not a single one dissolved in the oil, and the taste… out of this world delicious! I used a heavy hand with the herbs, so mine turned out a bit more green than Sawsan’s.

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These tender, flavorful little morsels were perfect served with the tahini sauce…

Falafel, from Beiwtching Kitchen


BONUS RECIPE

And now that we got the Falafel talked about, I must share with you a bonus recipe. In part, I made it because I wanted to have a backup post in case the falafel turned into oily crumbs. But I am so glad I picked this salad, because it was one of the best things I cooked so far this year.  Grilled peaches ROCK!

Grilled Peach Salad with Lavender Dressing

GRILLED PEACH FETA SALAD WITH LAVENDER DRESSING
(slightly modified from Sawsan’s Chef in Disguise)

for the salad:
3 cups greens (I used a spring mix)
3 tablespoons of feta crumbled, or to taste
2 peaches cut into segments

for the lavender dressing:
4 tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon mustard
½ teaspoon dried lavender flowers
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used white balsamic)

Make the dressing: In a bowl add the lemon juice, salt, mustard ,lavender, and balsamic vinegar and whisk Slowly drizzle the olive oil while you continue whisking until you have added the entire amount.

Prepare the salad: On the grill or in a pan on the stove top, lightly grill the peach segments. In your serving plate, arrange the greens, topped with the grilled peach segments. Crumble the feta cheese on top.

Drizzle the dressing on the salad right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

saladcomp

Comments: What a wonderful salad this was!  I made the dressing one hour before dinner, because I wanted to make sure the lavender taste would sip through the dressing, and I think that was a good move… I coated the grill pan very lightly with a coconut oil spray, and the peaches were done in a couple of minutes, beautiful marks all around. I allowed the slices to come to room temperature before assembling the salad. A winner, all the way!  I am definitely incorporating grilled peaches in our diet, and might even be daring and grill some fresh apricots next time, use a mixture of the two fruits…


Grilled Peach Salad, from Bewitching Kitchen

Sawsan, I cannot tell you how happy I was to get your blog to cook from! Having been a reader for so long, your place feels like home in the blogosphere…  I hope you also enjoyed your assignment this month!  Happy Reveal Day!

I invite my readers to click on the blue frog. She will take you to the collection of recipes my virtual friends prepared this month. And of course, I wish everyone in the USA a Happy 4th of July!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2015

TWO YEARS AGO: Sous-vide Pork Chops with Roasted Poblano Butter

THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Sherbet

FOUR YEARS AGO: Amazing Ribs for the 4th of July!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Baby Back Ribs on the 4th of July

SIX YEARS AGO: Blueberry Muffins

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A Pie for your 4th of July

DAN LEPARD SIMPLE WHITE LOAF

I suppose most of my readers know that I am crazy for sourdough bread. But there’s something to be said for a simple, straightforward loaf that is a breeze to make and will be so much better than anything store-bought. Granted, it won’t stay good for as long because you won’t be adding preservatives to it, but isn’t that a bonus?  This recipe from Dan Lepard is simplicity in itself. Think of the usual suspects, flour, water, salt, and yeast, with a smidgen of butter that will contribute with flavor and improve texture. Anyone can make this bread, beginners, experienced bakers, children, yeast-o-phobes. All you need is a loaf pan, although you could conceivably shape it free form and bake it on a stone or baking sheet.

Simple White Loaf

 

SIMPLE WHITE LOAF – RECIPE OVERVIEW

The recipe calls for a sponge, which is simply a very liquid mixture of water, flour, and commercial yeast,  allowed to ferment for a couple of hours or overnight. The longer you allow the sponge to ferment, the better. I’ve made this bread after overnight “spongification” or after 2 hours, both worked quite well.

Once your sponge is ready, you will add the rest of the flour to the dough, a little softened butter,  and do the minimal kneading technique 10 minutes after mixing the dough, again at 25 minutes, and one final time at 40 minutes (timing is quite flexible).  A final 30 minute-proofing and you’ll be ready to shape the loaf.

The shaped loaf sits for 90 minutes, gets slashed and baked for about 45 minutes.

The full recipe can be found in Short and Sweet. You might be able to find it also through a google search.

For my review of his book, click here.

lepardcollage

This simple recipe can be adapted in many ways. Dan himself used whey liquid from fresh mozzarella as part of the water in the recipe and loved the slight “tang” in the bread. One person who discussed this recipe in a Facebook page mentioned that a little soy sauce together with the water does wonders. Quite intriguing, I should try that at some point, probably reducing a little the amount of salt as soy contributes with some.

ceumb

Slightly toasted, it is perfect to go with pretty much anything you’d like… from sliced ham to jams, or a smear of butter with Maldon sea salt flakes… heaven! I made this recipe three times so far, and after we enjoy it on the day of baking, I wrap 4 slices together and freeze them. Within 10 minutes at room temperature and a brief encounter with our small Breville oven, they are as good as freshly baked.

Before I leave, allow me to share a link to  the best 10 breads to have in your repertoire according to Dan Lepard. I was happy to see several that I made (and blogged about) included in his list.  

ONE YEAR AGO: Maureen’s Fabulously Fudgy Brownies

TWO YEARS AGO: Wheat Berry Caraway Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Mexican Focaccia 

FOUR YEARS AGOSunny Kamut Salad with Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pane de Casa & Crostini

SIX YEARS AGO: Down-home Dig-in Chili

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Cinnamon Rolls

SLOW-COOKER BRAISED LAMB SHANKS

This recipe goes to the OMG FILES.

I realize with the heat wave hitting most places in the US of A this may not be too appealing, but keep in mind that my dear friends and family in São Paulo are freezing. My friends in Australia probably shivering a little, so folks, this one is for you. By the way, did you know that no homes have central heating in São Paulo? That means when the temperature is 40 F outside, it is about 40 F inside too.  I remember – not too fondly – the ordeal it was to wake up during winter and cover the distance between bed ant bathroom for the morning shower. The reverse happens in the summer, very few homes have air-conditioning and well, you know how hot a tropical country can get.  But, back to food. This is a fantastic recipe. The crock pot works perfectly for this type of meat. Best if made a few days in advance, so that all those sauce flavors intensify in the fridge. Lamb shanks are Phil’s favorite, he always orders them in restaurants, if available. He was a super happy camper that evening… Even more so because I managed to surprise him. Prepared the braise during the weekend and awed him a couple of days later.  What’s for dinner tonight? Oh, nothing special, just some braised lamb shanks… (not sure why I never got a call from Hollywood).

lamb

 

SLOW-COOKER BRAISED LAMB SHANKS
(adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

1 shallot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
6 carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup water
2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (I used canned)
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 lamb shanks, external fat trimmed
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup red wine

Put the shallot, celery, carrots,, water, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaf in a slow cooker and stir to combine.

Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until nearly smoking. Add the shanks and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to the slow cooker.

Remove the sauté pan from the heat, pour in the wine and return to medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Add the wine to the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 6 hours. Transfer the lamb shanks to a large serving dish.

Remove the bay leaf from the cooking liquid. If you’d like to de-fat the sauce, transfer the crock pot to the refrigerator, or save the shanks and the sauce in separate containers in the fridge.  Next day remove the fat congealed on the surface.  If you like a very smooth sauce, puree the liquids until smooth, add to the meat, then re-heat the whole thing together.  Alternatively, you can keep the sauce and veggies as they are in the final braising and serve with the shanks.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

meat and sauce

Every once in a while our grocery store will carry cute packages of New Zealand lamb shanks, and sometimes they even put them on sale for a lot less than the “arm and a leg” price tag they normally go for. Fully aware of Phil’s endless love for lamb shanks, I keep an eye for those sales. June started with a few days of cool weather, perfect for this type of meal.

Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks

 

The meat was literally falling off the bone…  I kept the carrots and celery in pieces instead of pureeing the sauce, do whatever you prefer. Served with mashed cauliflower and sweet peas, this was good enough to make me long for winter. Ha! Did I fool you? Probably not. By now  you should know that long for and winter are never in the same sentence for me.

pinterestlambGo ahead and pin me!
😉

ONE YEAR AGO: How about some coffee with your steak?

TWO YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Spiral Kick

THREE YEARS AGO: Carrot Flan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette

FOUR YEARS AGO: Granola Bars

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini

SIX YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes